Spending doubles on youth groups

Three youth groups will see their funding double this year, Premier Dennis Fentie announced Monday.

Three youth groups will see their funding double this year, Premier Dennis Fentie announced Monday.

The Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse, the Youth of Today Society and Bringing Youth Towards Equality will collectively receive $660,000 in 2010-11. The funding agreement lasts three years.

The need for dependable “core” funding is a constant refrain from non-profit groups, which often depend on year-to-year funding from fickle government agencies. Uncertainty over whether contracts will be renewed means non-profit workers spend much of their time filling out project proposals when they could be working with youth, say representatives.

“It’s an issue for every non-governmental organization in the territory,” said Joel Mach, chair of the Bring Youth Towards Equality’s board. The announced funding would go a long way to address the long-standing deficit in support, said representatives from the three groups.

But the territory appears no closer in establishing an emergency youth shelter in Whitehorse.

The Youth of Today Society has pushed for the creation of such a shelter since the autumn of 2008, after it purchased a hostel on Jeckell Street to be used for that purpose.

But the territorial government balked at the society’s business plan, which proposed that the government spend $1.4 million over three years on the project.

So the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre continues to double as the de facto youth shelter, along with the Salvation Army for clients at least 18 years old. The former hostel, meanwhile, is being used by the society during the day to conduct after-school services for youth clients.

“We have 10 beds and a house, and it doesn’t make sense that it’s empty at night,” said executive director Vicki Durrant.

Health and Social Services officials proposed sitting down with Durrant to describe the perceived shortcomings of her group’s business plan, but “we never did have that meeting,” she said.

The group is working on several new proposals to get the shelter up and running, including plans to work with several First Nations to receive the needed funding, said Durrant.

Until then, the additional funding is a promising sign because “it’s going to give us the stability we need financially” and it could indicate that the territory sees “what we’re doing as a worthwhile investment,” said Durrant.,

The Boys and Girls Club’s precarious financial position caused it to briefly close in December, until the territorial government came through with a cash infusion of $50,000 to help pay for rent, wages and supplies.

Having three years of steady funding should make a “huge difference,” said Kathy Munro, vice-president of the Boys and Girls Club. The group runs a downtown drop-in centre for youth that offers healthy meals, homework tutoring and help hunting for work. They haven’t yet decided how to spend the additional funding, said Munro.

Bringing Youth Towards Equality will use its additional funding to hire another worker to expand their rural outreach program, which brings youth from Yukon’s communities together to discuss a wide range of issues, from bullying to climate change to sexuality.

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